Should England Shed its Monarchy?

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What do the English people need the monarchy for, anyway? Especially when their economy is tanking. They certainly are a drain on it. What do they get for the extra expense. is it like an old pair of shoes? Or is it like a security blanket? It kind of reminds me a man child who is in his late 30’s or early 40’s and still lives with his parents. It is high time that they shed this vestige of a bygone era. Do they think that as long as they kkep it, they still stand a chance to become super power again? Fat chance of that ever happening, especially with China “chomping at the bit”.

The role of the Monarchy

Monarchy is the oldest form of government in the United Kingdom.

In a monarchy, a king or queen is Head of State. The British Monarchy is known as a constitutional monarchy. This means that, while The Sovereign is Head of State, the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament.

Although The Sovereign no longer has a political or executive role, he or she continues to play an important part in the life of the nation. The Queen is constitutionally obliged to follow the government’s advice.

As Head of State, The Monarch undertakes constitutional and representational duties which have developed over one thousand years of history. In addition to these State duties, The Monarch has a less formal role as ‘Head of Nation’. The Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.

Her main functions as head of state are to appoint the Prime Minister, and all the other ministers; to open new sessions of parliament; and to give royal assent to bills passed by parliament, signifying that they have become law. 

The Queen also chairs monthly meetings of the Privy Council, to approve Orders in Council; she receives incoming and outgoing ambassadors; she makes a host of other appointments, such as the senior judges, but in all this she acts on the advice of the government. She has a weekly audience with the Prime Minister, and receives daily boxes of state papers for her signature, and for information. She also has regular meetings with senior officials of all kinds. 

The monarch is also head of the nation 

To the public the Queen is more visible in her wider role as head of the nation. In this representative role the Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognises success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service. The Queen fulfils this role through speeches such as her address to the nation at the start of the Covid pandemic, and annual broadcast on Christmas day; through giving honours to recognise public and voluntary service; and through visits to the armed forces, schools, hospitals, charities and local organizations. 

The Queen carried out just under 300 public engagements in 2019, but in total 15 members of the royal family carried out 3,567 such engagements. These include national occasions such as attending the Cenotaph for Remembrance Day, or the Trooping The Color; but the majority are visits to all parts of the UK, to recognise and support the work of local public services and voluntary organisations. The Queen and other members of the royal family are patrons of over 1000 charities and organisations in the UK and the Commonwealth. 

The Commonwealth and the Realms 

The Queen is also head of state of 14 other countries around the world, known as the realms: they include Australia, Canada, Jamaica and New Zealand. And the Queen is Head of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 states, mainly former British colonies and dependencies. 

In all these roles The Sovereign is supported by members of their immediate family.

The role of the Royal Family

Members of the Royal Family supported The Queen in her many State and national duties, as well as carrying out important work in the areas of public and charitable service, and helping to strengthen national unity and stability.

Those who undertake official duties are members of The Queen’s close family.

Every year the Royal Family as a whole carries out over 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and worldwide.

These engagements may include official State responsibilities. Members of the Royal Family often carry out official duties in the UK and abroad where The Monarch cannot be present in person. The Prince of Wales and The Princess Royal, for example, may present members of the public with their honours at an Investiture.

When official events such as receptions, State banquets and garden parties are held, The Royal Family supports The Queen in making his guests welcome.

Members of the Royal Family also often represented The Queen and the nation in Commonwealth or other countries, at events such as State funerals or national festivities, or through longer visits to strengthen Britain’s diplomatic and economic relations.

The Royal Family also plays an important role in supporting and encouraging the public and charity sectors. About 3,000 organisations list a member of the Royal Family as patron or president.

The huge range of these organisations – covering every subject from education to the environment, hospitals to housing – allows members of the Royal Family to meet people from a wide spectrum of national and local life, and to understand their interests, problems and concerns.

2,000: the number of official engagements carried out by the Royal Family each year in the UK and overseas.

70,000: the number of people entertained each year to dinners, lunches, receptions and garden parties at the Royal residences.

100,000: the number of letters received and answered each year by the Royal Family.

Some members of the Royal Family have also established their own charities – for example, The Prince’s Trust, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, a charity which provides advice and support for people acting as carers.

The Royal Family also plays an important role in recognising and supporting the work of the Armed Services. Members of the Royal Family have official relationships with many units of the Forces, paying regular visits to soldiers, sailors and airmen serving at home and abroad.

Finally, the Royal Family as a whole plays a role in strengthening national unity. Members of the Royal Family are able to recognise and participate in community and local events in every part of the UK, from the opening of new buildings to celebrations or acts of commemoration.

The Queen would be unable to attend every engagement to which she is invited. Members of the Royal Family can undertake local or specialist engagements which would otherwise have to be declined.

The evolution of monarchy

The British royal family once ruled almost a quarter of the world’s people and places, maintaining power among a small group of Europe’s elite monarchies. 134 of the last 185 years have been ruled by two queens, overseeing vastly different realms and royal families.

Why Elizabeth II was modern Britain’s most unlikely queen

She was just 5th in the line of succession, but a series of historical vagaries put the princess on the world’s most powerful throne.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II today has brought the British monarchy’s longest ever reign to an end. But though she descended from royalty, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor wasn’t supposed to be queen—until a series of historical vagaries placed her in the crosshairs of the world’s most visible monarchy.

A royal family tree

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria reigned over the British Empire for nearly 64 years, the longest of any British monarch until her gre…Read MorePHOTOGRAPH VIA SCIENCE HISTORY IMAGES, ALAMY

Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother, Victoria, reigned over the British Empire for nearly 64 years, longer than any British monarch before her. And she wasn’t first in line for the throne. She was fifth in the line of succession, but a series of deaths put her in power when she was just 18.

Victoria’s eldest son, Edward VII, was heir to the throne for decades, but his long-living mother prevented his ascension to the throne until he was 59 years old. He reigned for only nine years before dying. By then, his eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, had died at just 28, so his second son took the throne.

George V had a 25-year reign, and after his death in 1936 his eldest son, Edward VIII—Elizabeth’s uncle—took the throne. But when he fell in love with the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson, he decided to abdicate.

Elizabeth’s sudden veer toward the monarchy

This created a constitutional crisis, and again the line of succession veered to another arm of the family. If Edward VIII had had children of his own, they might have stepped up. Instead, the disgraced king’s brother, George VI, reluctantly took the throne.

Princess Elizabeth riding her tricycle in the park
Princess Elizabeth (left), later Queen Elizabeth II, rides her tricycle in a London park circa 1935.PHOTO VIA KEYSTONE/GETTY

Since he had no sons (at the time, male heirs took precedence because of the country’s system of male primogeniture, a tradition that ended in 2013), his firstborn daughter, Elizabeth, became first in line for the monarchy.

At the time of the abdication, Elizabeth was 10 years old. She had spent her childhood in both London and the nearby countryside. Though her London home on the edge of Hyde Park was elegant and large, it had no security to speak of. The princess was educated at home alongside her younger sister, Margaret, by a variety of tutors.

 Elizabeth’s life as princess

“If Princess Elizabeth had grown up to be a cousin or a sister of the monarch, she would still have undertaken some royal duties but would also have enjoyed a quieter life with less press scrutiny and more time to pursue her own interests,” says historian and royal commentator Carolyn Harris.

Instead, Elizabeth’s life changed dramatically in 1936 once her uncle abdicated and her father became King George VI. Suddenly she lived in Buckingham Palace. Her movements were restricted; her education changed. Though her governess, Marion Crawford, attempted to give her life some normalcy, taking her and her sister on outings and even organizing a scouting group among the children of palace employees and a variety of aristocratic friends and relatives, Elizabeth’s life was anything but normal.


These two monarchs account for most of

the past 200 years

of British rule—

and oversaw vastly different realms

and families.

Click here to see an annotated timeline of their reigns

The princess was expected to master the social graces of a royal and gain an understanding of the history, protocols, and laws of the country over which she would one day reign. She studied history with the royal archivist, got lessons in religion from the archbishop of Canterbury, and became fluent in French.

Experts disagree on the extent of her education. Taking the throne “must have been extraordinarily difficult for her, particularly because she’d never been to school and never had that wider education that we perhaps now take for granted,” royal correspondent Chris Shop told the Daily Express in 2019.

Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth do homework in Buckingham Palace in 1940
Princess Elizabeth (right) and Princess Margaret (1930-2002) work on paintings in the schoolroom of Buckingham Palace, in London, in June 1940. As the eldest child of George VI, Elizabeth acceded to the throne after his death in 1952.PHOTOGRAPH BY LISA SHERIDAN,STUDIO LISA/GETTY

Her father, who despite his shy reserve and stutter became a beloved national figure, helped too, says Harris. “Elizabeth learned her future role as the sovereign by shadowing her father. George VI had not been born to be king and was uncomfortable with public speaking but rose to the occasion.” The hesitant king reigned until his death in 1952, when Elizabeth became queen.

Duty calls 

A childhood friend, Sonia Berry, told the Sunday Telegraph’s Andrew Alderson in 2006 that Queen Elizabeth would likely have chosen a different trajectory for her life if she had had the chance. “I think she would have been happier married and living in the country with her dogs and horses,” said Berry. “It’s a very lonely job because, even when she knows people well, she is still the Queen, and there is still a barrier there.”

Queen Elizabeth II opens Parliament
Queen Elizabeth II, seated on a golden throne and wearing the jeweled State Crown, opens Parliament in 1960. Queen Elizabeth opened Parliament every year of her reign except for 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant, and in 2022 due to mobility issues.PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT GOODMAN, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

As for the unplanned, yet fateful, series of events that led Elizabeth II to the throne, the exception has always been the rule for the royal family, says Harris, who points out that, until recently, succession often went in unexpected directions because of death, abdication, or an absence of direct heirs in the main branch of the royal family.

“The current royal succession, where there are three generations of direct male heirs [Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George] is comparatively rare in British royal history,” she says.

Like those who came before her, Elizabeth II has made it clear it was her duty to serve. “I declare before you that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she said to her future subjects during a radio address given on her 21st birthday, in April 1947.

More than 75 years later, she has followed through on that promise—even if it wasn’t one she wanted to make.

Here’s what would happen to the royal family if Britain abolished the monarchy

The British royal family has certainly had a tumultuous couple of years.

On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96, shaking up the royal line of succession. The Queen’s eldest son, Charles III, will assume the throne.

But prior to that, the royal family was mired in a series of controversies.

Prince Andrew‘s involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s royal exit, and the couple’s allegations that their son was subjected to racism from within the royal household — begged the question of how long the monarchy can survive.

King Charles III had also seen a drop in popularity in the UK after Harry and Markle’s Oprah interview — where it was revealed he stopped taking Harry’s calls in 2020 — Insider’s Samantha Grindell previously reported.

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt, political correspondent at, argued that the royals are “becoming increasingly out of place in contemporary society” due to the family’s past and present scandals. 

“The time has come: let’s abolish the monarchy,” she said.

While some countries, including Greece and Bulgaria, abolished their monarchies through public referendum, royal commentator Marlene Koenig said the process is more complex than people think.

“It would take legislation, an act of Parliament, and signed by the Sovereign to end the monarchy,” Koenig, a royal expert for History Extra, previously told Insider.

However, Koenig added that “the monarchy is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

“There are no protests. The republican movement is small,” she explained. “The political system is stable.”

Nonetheless, that’s not to say things couldn’t one day change if there were to be a greater call for Britain to consider the future of the monarchy.

Here’s what would happen to the royal family if the monarchy no longer existed. 

The King would move out of Buckingham Palace — but he wouldn’t have to give up all of his royal residences 

Buckingham Palace has been used as the official working and living headquarters of Britain’s monarchs since 1837. It has 775 rooms (many of these are for private use), and will used by the King to host state banquets and engagements with world leaders and government officials. 

It is also a prime location for many milestone events, including royal wedding receptions, and, soon, the King’s Trooping the Colour birthday parade each year.

william kate wedding kiss balcony
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared their first kiss as husband and wife on the Buckingham Palace balcony. 

The palace was usually open to visitors in the summer, when Her Majesty vacationed at her Scottish holiday home, Balmoral Castle. However, it could become a permanent tourist attraction if the King were to officially move out. 

The palace is property of the Crown Estate, which the late Queen Elizabeth was the owner of while she was the monarch. However, this would change if the new King was no longer Head of State, according to the Crown Estate’s official website.

“The Crown Estate is though owned by the Monarch in right of the Crown,” the website read.

“This means that the Queen owns it by virtue of holding the position of reigning Monarch, for as long as she is on the throne, as will her successor.”

Other residences that are Crown-owned include Windsor Castle (her Easter residence), and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (her Edinburgh residence). 

As pointed out by Koenig, the Queen also privately owned Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands and the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where she spent every Christmas and New Year. Therefore, it’s likely she would have chosen one of these as her new permanent residence. 

This isn’t an unusual circumstance for royal families from abolished monarchies, according to Koenig. 

“Most of the former German royal families stayed in their homes,” she said. “Some property was confiscated, others received compensation, including the Kaiser’s family.”

Prince William and Kate would follow Prince Harry and Meghan’s lead and pursue financial independence

At the age of 73, it’s possible that King Charles would retire from public life if the monarchy was abolished. 

It’s more likely that the younger generation of royals, such as Kate Middleton and Prince William, would follow Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s lead and try to shape their own careers. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said during their Oprah interview that the royal family had cut them off financially at the beginning of 2020, meaning the couple had to rely on Harry’s inheritance from Princess Diana. 

Since then, the Sussexes have secured major deals with Spotify and Netflix, and also signed on to Harry Walker Speaking Agency.

A public relations guru suggested to The Mirror that the couple could earn up to $1.3 billion (£1 billion) through corporate deals and brand ambassador roles.

Meanwhile, Markle narrated the Disney Plus documentary, “Elephant,” which premiered in 2020.

Of course, it’s just down to speculation as to whether Middleton and William would take on similar work to Harry and Markle if they were forced to pursue private careers. 

They do have similar skill sets to the Sussexes. They currently run their own charity, “The Royal Foundation,” where they often give speeches at charity dinners and events. 

Like Markle, they also have experience with voice-over work. Middleton, William, Harry, and Markle co-narrated a mental health commercial directed by Richard Curtis in 2019.

Like Koenig said, it’s unlikely the monarchy will be abolished

All that being said, it’s worth remembering that royal experts say the likelihood of the monarchy being abolished is pretty low. 

Although royal author Nigel Cawthorne previously told Insider that the monarchy will be “severely damaged in the long term” by Harry and Markle’s exit, most experts suggest that things will not change.

“The monarchy as an institution is all about the monarch and her direct heirs,” royal editor Robert Jobson said. “The Sussexes are popular, but their involvement in matters of state are negligible.”

Koenig echoed Jobson’s comments. “The only members of the royal family that have a constitutional role are the Sovereign and the heir apparent,” she said.

Therefore, while it appears unlikely, it’s clear the royal family would still be able to survive — whether from private property or corporate deals — if the monarchy no longer existed.

Young British people want to ditch the monarchy, poll suggests

Young people in Britain no longer think the country should keep the monarchy and more now want an elected head of state, with their mood souring over the last couple of years, a poll on Friday showed.

The British monarchy traces its history back to William the Conqueror who invaded England in 1066, though royals ruled the patchwork of kingdoms which stretched across what became England, Scotland and Wales for centuries before that.

According to the survey by YouGov, 41% of those aged 18 to 24 thought there should now be an elected head of state compared to 31% who wanted a king or queen.

That was a reversal of sentiment from two years ago, when 46% preferred the monarchy to 26% who wanted it replaced.

However, overall the survey had better news for Queen Elizabeth, 95, and the royal family, with 61% favouring the monarchy while just under a quarter thought it should be replaced with an elected figure.

The last few months have been difficult for the Windsors with the death of the queen’s 99-year-old husband Prince Philip in April and the crisis that followed the interview by Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan with U.S. chat show host Oprah Winfrey in March.

Previous polls have indicated an age divide, with younger generations holding more favourable views of Harry and Meghan than their older counterparts who had overhwelmingly negative feelings about them.

While there is no possibility of an end to the monarchy while the queen remains on the throne, there is concern for the royals about a declining support among younger Britons.

The survey of 4,870 adults found 53% of those aged between 25-49 supported keeping the monarchy, down five percentage points from a similar poll in 2019, while support for an elected head was up 4 points.

Amongst those aged over 65, 81% backed the monarchy, almost unchanged from two years ago.

With Queen Elizabeth’s death, republicans sense their chance

During Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign, republican rumblings surfaced on occasion, but the affection and respect she enjoyed meant that the movement to do away with the monarchy struggled to make a lasting impression.

Now, with her death and the accession of her less popular son Charles, republicans believe that the end of the 1,000-year-old institution could be a step closer.

“The queen is the monarchy for most people. After she dies the future of the institution is in serious jeopardy,” Graham Smith, chief executive of campaign group Republic, said earlier this year.

“Charles may inherit the throne, but he won’t inherit the deference and respect afforded the queen.”

Smith and like-minded anti-monarchists argue that the royal family has no place in a modern democracy, and is staggeringly expensive to maintain.

Royal officials say the institution costs each Briton less than 1 pound ($1.15) annually, but Republic says its true cost to the nation each year is about 350 million pounds.

The overall wealth of the family is also hard to gauge due to the opaque nature of its finances and what it directly owns. A Reuters analysis in 2015 suggested it had nominal assets worth almost 23 billion pounds at the time.

Polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of Britons back the monarchy, with support for the queen herself running at similar or higher levels. Republicans accepted they had no chance of changing the system while she was alive.

But surveys have also shown support is slipping, especially among younger Britons, and that Charles is less popular.

Backing for the 73-year-old taking the throne has also fluctuated, with some polls suggesting that many people believed the throne should pass to his eldest son Prince William instead.


The new king’s second wife Camilla also remains a divisive figure, surveys show, and the greater popularity of William and his wife Kate could help counter moves towards abolishing the monarchy in Britain and abroad.

Britain’s mass-market newspapers have largely embraced the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are a regular feature on the front pages as they carry out royal and charitable duties across the country.

One former senior royal aide told Reuters the younger royals were more media savvy than the older generation, and that an enormous amount of planning and care went into ensuring their work and personality shone through.

In a rapidly changing world, the stability of an ancient institution like the monarchy was also something on which people could rely.

The aide said the royal family provided “sort of a ballast” to the country, especially in difficult times.

Yet even William and Kate are not immune to criticism, with a recent tour of the Caribbean overshadowed by protests over Britain’s imperial past.


In the last few years, Republic has stepped up campaigning on social media and with billboards.

Smith and other republicans have long argued that when Britons face up to the reality of Charles as king then support for the monarchy as a whole will dwindle.

He has said that following the queen’s funeral and before the coronation, he and other activists would vociferously push for there to be a referendum on the future of the institution.

“It is an opportunity to campaign, but it is not going to be an easy campaign,” he said. “We are going have to work hard to get that referendum.”

There is no clear path to removing the monarchy in Britain, which does not have a codified constitution that lays out the steps. Its opponents argue that if public opinion turns overwhelmingly against it, the royal family could not continue.

The only time the royal line was interrupted was in 1649, when King Charles I was tried for high treason, convicted and executed, ushering in a brief period of an English republic.

It ended in 1660 with the restoration of the monarchy, presaging the establishment of an institution with vastly reduced powers from what came before.


It is not just in Britain that the monarchy’s status could come under threat. Despite most of Britain’s empire dissipating during Elizabeth’s reign, Charles still becomes head of state of 14 other realms including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The popularity and admiration for the queen had mostly kept a lid on republicanism, but the issue is now likely to reignite with renewed energy.

The decision of Barbados to ditch the queen as head of state in November, 2021 was seen as a boost for the republican cause, and others realms such as Jamaica and Belize have indicated they wanted to follow suit, with the royals saying they would not stand in their way.

“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s Constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide,” Charles said at a Commonwealth summit in June this year.

“The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change, calmly and without rancour.”

In Australia, 55 percent of voters backed keeping the monarchy in a referendum in 1999, but recent polls have given a contradictory picture on where sentiment currently lies.

A 2020 survey suggested 62% wanted an Australian head of state, with the accession of Charles considered key, while a poll in January 2021 found only 34% wanted a republic.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the constitutional monarchy, and if it ain’t broke, I don’t see the need to fix it,” former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said when Charles’s second son Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, visited in 2018.

However, the decision of Harry and Meghan to quit royal duties in 2020, and later to criticise Buckingham Palace and accuse one unnamed royal of racism, could work against the royals.

Australia’s centre-left Labor government named the country’s first “assistant minister for the republic” when it came to power this June.

The Australian Republic Movement offered condolences on the queen’s death but noted that she herself had backed Australia’s right to become a fully independent nation during the 1999 referendum.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has spoken in support of moving toward a republic. But on Friday he said: “Today’s a day for one issue and one issue only, which is to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.”

In Canada, recent polls suggest about half of Canadians believe the country should end its ties to the monarchy with the death of Elizabeth.

However, experts say removing the monarchy from the Canadian constitution could prove difficult, perhaps stymieing any imminent moves towards a republic.

In New Zealand, where voters in a 2016 referendum rejected changing their national flag to remove the Union Jack – the flag of the United Kingdom – polls indicate a divided public, with younger people leaning towards a republic.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in March 2018 that she expected New Zealand would become a republic within her lifetime but it was not a matter that the government was prioritising.

Reacting to the queen’s death on Thursday, Ardern said: “There is no doubt that a chapter is closing today…she was extraordinary.”

Clearly Britain loses more than it gains from the monarchy. Let us be brave and end it

The Queen should abdicate: this is the right time. Not because another scandal has broken out, with police probing allegations of Saudi cash-for-honours donations to the Prince of Wales’s charity. Not because of Prince Andrew’s disgrace.

Nor should she abdicate for the reason given this week by my friend and colleague Simon Jenkins: he calls for her to withdraw gently from public life to spend her declining years in dignified tranquillity, and allow a “planned transfer” to Charles. In other words, let there be no perilous moment when people ask themselves why no one asked them first. Allow no possible pause for thought between her last breath and the shout of “vivat rex”. Make sure it’s a fait accompli with his royal posterior already cemented to the throne.

It is indeed a good time to bow out gracefully, as this platinum jubilee celebrates her 70-year reign with all the pomp of a four-day bank holiday and a new pudding. But let it mark an end to monarchy itself, those feudal centuries drawing to a peaceful close. The Queen has held the monarchy together skilfully through tempestuous scandals, from the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the divorces of three of her children to the flight of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, once heralded as royals for the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo era.

This jubilee would make a cheerful ending to all the royal folderol. What better time to return the sovereignty promised in Brexit to the people to whom it belongs. Elizabeth the Last should get a historic send-off, her golden coach and crown retired and her six palaces opened as fine museums. (No, tourism is no excuse for monarchy: Versailles gets many more visitors, and so does Legoland down the road from Windsor Castle).

In death or abdication, her passing will be an emotive memory marker in every family, the last link to the second world war, to remnants of empire and to that old black and white world of Pathé newsreels with their jolly jingo voices. “Thank God for the Queen”, proclaims the Sun’s front page today, absurdly. It’s doubtful she returns any thanks to Rupert Murdoch, whose lèse-majesté arrival here shattered that old reverence for royal mystique.

The crown and constitution are no longer abstract debates. The need for an elected president has become urgent now Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street tests conventions, laws and civil rights beyond their limits. John Major expressed that constitutional outrage eloquently on these pages, listing Johnson’s abuses: deliberately breaking international law; tearing up the ministerial code; ordaining police stop and search “without any cause for suspicion”; removing British citizenship at whim, while waging war against the civil service and the BBC, those national safeguards.

The Commons Speaker turns out to be powerless against lies told to his face. There is no voice to admonish, check or protect against elective dictatorship by a wrecker of a prime minister with a strong majority. His MPs are shockingly derelict.


Until now, monarchy was defended as dignified and powerless, a harmless decoration that never interferes with parliament. Embarrassing lapses – the Guardian’s revelations of the Queen’s consent preventing laws that may reveal her wealth or Charles’s “spider letters” leaning on ministers – are relatively trivial. The constitutional problem is not the monarch’s power, but powerlessness. Presidents around Europe protect constitutions and guard against overmighty politicians breaking basic law. A president would have stopped Johnson illegally proroguing parliament: it takes the authority of election to take action as a vital backstop in a constitutional emergency.

Our monarchy has handed all royal prerogative to the prime minister with no check or balance, bar a House of Lords almost as weak as the monarch for the same bad reason – lacking the authority of election. Look how Johnson engages in voter suppression: his proposals for compulsory photo ID and abolishing colleges registering their students will deliberately deter the young and poor from voting. Look how he moves to curb the electoral commission’s power to prosecute illegal political donations protecting his own party’s pelf. There is no brake on an errant prime minister in a country without a written constitution, where a warped electoral system denies fair representation and there is no effective head of state to guard against law-breaking. The unelected Queen must do what the prime minister tells her to.

Monarchists speak with revulsion of who an elected president may be. The royal historian Robert Lacey, in a recent debate, asked in tones of horror, “President Lineker? President Street-Porter?” But, urges Graham Smith, CEO of the Republic pressure group, look around Europe at dignified presidents who understand their ceremonial duties and the political limits to their role, while acting as constitutional guarantors. Former politicians take on a presidency with as much independence as our Speakers in parliament. Look across the Irish Sea at Michael D Higgins, Mary McAleese or Mary Robinson and ponder why British voters are too wild or daft to be trusted to make equally sensible choices.

Support for this antique dysfunction wanes with each generation and it has become fragile. A majority of under-25s expect it to be gone in 25 years. Monarchy is a cast of mind blocking reform. Monarchy is a feudalism of the imagination that stamps approval on inheritance, inequality and privilege, all growing rampantly right now.

“Take but degree away, untune that string, And, hark, what discord follows!” Shakespeare has Ulysses warn, eulogising “degree, priority and place” in Troilus and Cressida: no one knows if this deep conservatism aligning the planets with aristocratic order was his own view. The point is this: that string is untuned already. The crown decorates a riot of constitutional disorder. Abolishing it would open windows into every aspect of how we choose to be governed and how we think of ourselves.

Resources, “The evolution of monarchy.” By Jason Treat;, “Why Elizabeth II was modern Britain’s most unlikely queen: She was just 5th in the line of succession, but a series of historical vagaries put the princess on the world’s most powerful throne.” By Erin Blakemore;, “The role of the Monarchy.”;, “Here’s what would happen to the royal family if Britain abolished the monarchy.” By Mikhaila Friel and Lloyd Lee;, “Young British people want to ditch the monarchy, poll suggests.”;, “With Queen Elizabeth’s death, republicans sense their chance.” By Michael Holden;, “Clearly Britain loses more than it gains from the monarchy. Let us be brave and end it.: By Polly Toynbee;

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